Media Contact

Micah McCoy, (505) 266-5915 x1003 or mmccoy@aclu-nm.org

Marco Palau, (510) 241-7194

November 28, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, a nationwide team of immigrant rights advocates announced that Guatemalan asylum seeker Manuel Perez*, who has been subjected to prolonged detention for more than 21 months in the Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) in Milan, NM, has been released. Mr. Perez, a 28-year-old father of two, fled to the United States after he was attacked by a group of men who targeted him because he is indigenous and he and his family were threatened with death. The Guatemalan police did nothing to protect the family.

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project, with pro bono support from a national law firm, represented Mr. Perez in his immigration case, and the Immigrant Family Defense Fund has worked closely with Mr. Perez’s family in Oakland, California. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico represents Mr. Perez in his habeas corpus petition, which sought his release on grounds that his detention was unconstitutionally prolonged.

“After nearly two years of cruel detention, Mr. Perez can finally reunite with his young children and family,” said Allegra Love, Director of Santa Fe Dreamers. “Mr. Perez posed neither a flight risk nor a risk to public safety.He simply sought refuge from persecution and death in his home country. There was no reason to subject him to prolonged detention other than to use misery and suffering to compel him to give up his fight for a safe harbor.”

Mr. Perez’s attack in Guatemala left him with grave injuries including a fractured skull, broken teeth, and a brain hemorrhage. He sought asylum at the U.S. border along with his nine-year-old son in 2017. Under the government’s policy of child separation, his son was taken from him, and Mr. Perez was placed in CCCC, a for-profit detention facility notorious for mistreatment and medical neglect. Without access to proper medical treatment, symptoms from his injuries worsened, causing him severe pain, vertigo, loss of vision, persistent headaches, and cognitive difficulties. The U.S. government twice denied parole that would have allowed him access to medical treatment.

Despite the Board of Immigration Appeals’ ruling that he qualifies for withholding of removal, relief from deportation, the government subjected him to prolonged detention without a bond hearing. The law deems such detention unconstitutionally prolonged beyond six months without hearing; Mr. Perez has been held for more than 21 months.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Perez is not alone,” said Marco Palau, spokesperson for the Immigrant Family Defense Fund. “We are detaining tens of thousands of immigrants in prison-like conditions, often for extended periods of time and without due process. This industrial-scale cruelty is a stain on the soul of our country, and we will not rest until these unjust policies are reversed and repudiated.”

*Client’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

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